It’s a perfect day – the glimmering sun breaks through the clouds and warms their backs as they cheerily go for their daily afternoon stroll. The loving father beams down at her when suddenly, spotting something in the road, she skitters away, and he shouts out, Stay! to his – dog? Or, uh, daughter?

This commercial from the Best Friends Animal Society disturbingly blurs the line between girl and pup.

The advertisement is for their Fix At Four campaign, which encourages pet owners to spay and neuter their animals at four months. 

Amber Ayers, senior of marketing and creative manager for Best Friends, explains the facts governing their advocacy work: “Polls tell us that 80 percent of people believe in spay/neuter, and more than half of all litters are accidents. We wanted to confront this issue head-on. When there are millions of pets already homeless, each of those uh-oh/oopsie litters contributes directly to the killing of an estimated 4 million dogs and cats in shelters each year.”

That’s a message we can definitely get behind at BUST, and you already know that we love YouTube videos of cute animals more than anything, but – this kind of advertising isn’t okay. In fact, it’s irresponsible and sexist.

The PSA shows a young girl walking with her father down a sidewalk, while they are constantly barraged by a number of young boys who show sexual interest in her. She looks barely 10, but we see her smiling coyly at her possible suitors, who are likened to dogs, jumping up and down, all but wagging their tails and lolling their tongues. At the end of the walk, the father, exasperated but good-natured, leans down to pet her, laughing, “Guess it’s about time to get you fixed, sweetie.”

It’s clear that the ad means to be cute and silly in their equating of a young human girl to a puppy; it’s anything but – it’s misogynistic and dangerous.

First of all, the PSA features children being sexualized in dehumanizing ways. Secondly, the comparison of a man’s ownership of his dog to one of his daughter recalls the idea that women belong to men, whether it be father or husband. The dad in the video is completely in control of his daughter’s sexuality, and, scared that she will become impregnated, decides to sterilize her before this can become an issue. He takes away all of her agency and bodily autonomy before she even has the knowledge to choose for herself, all with a natural, casual ease. There’s no way to watch this commercial without being reminded of some of the most salient feminist issues of our age – women’s rights to their bodies, abortion, the purity myth, and the sexual mutilation of women, often without their consent. 

Here at BUST, we support the myriad efforts of advocacy and social justice work that the amazing people around us are involved in, including those advancing animal rights. But we all need to band together in our fight for equality – we can’t throw women under the bus when trying to further a campaign for our pets, and that goes both ways. We need to be more responsible in our advertising, and to promise to be more supportive of each other’s causes, so that we can all progress together.   

Photos via Best Friends Animal Society, Youtube, Desktopnexus

Tagged in: women's rights, women's bodies, women in advertisements, violence against girls, victim blaming, teen girl, street harrassment, slutshaming, sexual violence, puppies, cute animals   

The opinions expressed on the BUST blog are those of the authors themselves and do not necessarily reflect the position of BUST Magazine or its staff.




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